Cart abandonment is the scourge of digital commerce. Every day, businesses see revenues slip away from them because customers give up on the transaction before completing it.

Right now, the global average for abandonment is 76%. More than three-quarters of those who start an online transaction don’t finish it. That is a staggering statistic, but there isn’t much that an online business can do about this. It’s not possible to force someone to buy something that they don’t want or can’t afford.

Some of this rate of abandonment is undoubtedly due to there being no actual intent to really purchase in the first place, much like a window shopper or someone browsing in a physical store, but this is not the only reason.

One thing is for sure, when people put something in their virtual basket there is a genuine opportunity to close that sale by making the process as efficient, seamless and frictionless as possible.

A 2014 study into abandonment identified three flaws in payments systems that were causing consumers to give up on transactions:

  • 23% gave up because they needed to create an account
  • 13% gave up because of concerns over security
  • 12% gave up because the payment process was overly complicated or unfamiliar

Adding it up, this shows that 48%, almost half, of cart abandonment is down to shortcomings in the payments system. It’s a stark figure, but the good news is that it is something that can be fixed.

So, how can the savvy online business overcome these problems?

Creating an account – don’t make it compulsory unless you have to

The first question to ask is, “is it absolutely necessary?” There are, of course, industries where know-your-customer (KYC) regulations mean that it is. Banking, gaming and financial products, for example, require that any customer is thoroughly authenticated to guard against identity theft or money laundering.

If it isn’t a legal requirement, then ask if it is truly worthwhile and vital to complete the sale. Of course, for CRM purposes, it’s valuable to capture customer information. A merchant wants to know who it is selling to, understand demographics and target them with offers. However, if it is costing sales, it’s probably not worthwhile.

It shouldn’t be compulsory for a customer to create an account unless it is essential. Merchants should give customers the opportunity to create an account if they want to and make it worth their while after the sale. But not force them to jump through hoops just to buy something.

Make it safe and make it appear safe

In the days before Chip and PIN, if you wanted to pay with a card in a restaurant, the waiter would disappear with your card before coming back with the payment slip for you to fill out. This was accepted as perfectly normal and safe.

Nowadays, no one should want to let their card out of their sight, and with good reason. We are all more aware of the dangers of card fraud and identity theft and want to keep our payment details safe.

So it is not enough that your payment process is safe, it should look safe too. The online checkout page should look familiar, something that consumers are used to using.

Lots of users choose not to implement 3D secure as it’s not optimised for mobile. They would rather take the risk of fraud as overall they believe they will be better off. Retailers should demand better solutions, more familiar to the card holder.

Keep the process as simple as possible

Why do shoppers give up on in-store purchases? Because it takes too long to pay. Recent research has shown that a third of customers will abandon their purchases if they have to wait more than five minutes in a queue and nearly half would actively avoid that retailer in future.

When customers have to fill out lengthy forms to authenticate themselves and then deal with complex security to make the payment, the merchant is, in essence, making them wait to make that purchase.

Smart retailers invest in queue busting technology in-store. Mobile point of sales, self-checkouts, contactless payment terminals are all weapons in the retailer’s battle against queues.

So if we know that it hurts your business to make people wait to pay in-store, why make them wait to pay online, especially when consumers expect online transactions to be even quicker than in-store.

Technology exists to speed up authentication and payment times. The payments industry is full of disruptive technology that can make a serious impact on the complexity of your online checkout. Fight your online queues as well as your in-store ones.


There is no single method to getting your abandonment rates under control. Yet a change in attitude is a step in the right direction.

It should be the easiest thing in the world for a customer to pay in exchange for whatever it is you provide. If a retailer does not have this ethos, it is likely turning away business. So all businesses that transact online should evaluate what customers have to do to purchase from them and see what barriers can be removed. Some might need simple rethinking, others might need modest investments in new technology. Either way, it will be both measurable and worthwhile.

First published in International Finance Magazine.